The Imperial Cup is the big betting race of the weekend with the winner assured of chasing the £75k bonus on offer for a horse winning Sandown’s feature and then following up at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
Ted Spread was the winner of the Chester Vase on the flat back in 2010 when trained by Mark Tompkins and is now in the care of Champion trainer Paul Nicholls. He looks as if he has been laid out for the race at Ditcheat and has been very well supported earlier in the week. The lightly-raced novice is currently the 7/2 jt favourite with BetVictor who are also offering ¼ odds the first 5 in the race.
David Pipe is one of only two trainers (father Martin the other) to have pulled off the Imperial Cup-Cheltenham double and he saddles Master Of Arts blinkered for the first time and who has not been seen over hurdles since finishing behind Zaynar in the 2009 Triumph Hurdle.
He will have been prepared for the race with military precision at Pond House and whatever Pipe runs in the race is hugely respected; Master Of Arts was very impressive in beating Copper Bleu at Doncaster on debut and is a fascinating contender in a cracking renewal.
Both look sure to run well but another unexposed novice Ile De Re (3.15) looks potentially very well treated near the foot of the weights for Ian Williams; the grey looks a better horse going right-handed and will appreciate the likely end-to-end gallop having won over two miles on the flat last summer.
Presenting Ace is a horse I have been waiting for in handicaps on better ground this spring but the ground remains a concern ahead of Sandown’s opener. Keep on the right side of him going forward but preference is for top-weight Ambion Wood (2.05) in a race where the weight-range is only 10lbs between all 18 horses. The selection doesn’t stay the 3m he raced on last time but as long as those Haydock exertions haven’t taken their toll he could still be fairly treated off his current mark. Carrigmorna King is another to consider in a cracking opener.
Marufo landed a bit of a touch for us last weekend and he had previously finished behind Martys Mission (2.40) when the latter made a belated seasonal reappearance at Sandown. Ruby Walsh takes over today and despite being 4lbs higher in the weights the Nicholls’ runner can go one better.
The nap of the weekend is Cool Friend (5.00) who caught a tartar in Hunt Ball (favourite for Cheltenham’s Pultenay Novices Chase on Tuesday) at Kempton last time and remains well-handicapped on her best form.
There is a terrific card at Meydan where Musir (2.50) is a confident selection in the Group 3 Mile on an artificial surface. Mick de Kock’s six year-old has the Duty Free back on turf as his World Cup night target but he is at least as effective on synthetics and can land the hat-trick.
Plein Pouvoir (4.50) is looking dangerously well handicapped at present and with the Venetia Williams yard in such good form he must be considered at Chepstow on a track where he won off the same mark last February. At the time of writing there is no jockey booked despite the fact that conditional Harry Challoner rides her other runners at the meeting. A market move would be well worth noting.
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